1970 was a big year for environmental law. The first of the major federal environmental statutes, the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), went into force. The first Earth Day was observed. The federal Clean Air Act underwent revolutionary changes, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") was created. Many states also passed ambitious environmental legislation and created new agencies.1970, as is often said, began the "Environmental Decade," when the basic blueprint was drawn for the building of modem environmental law.
The desire of environmental activists for ringing judicial pronouncements of environmental awareness and creative new theories and remedies for environmental ills has not been satisfied, at least not to the degree originally hoped for and not by the Supreme Court. Neither John Paul Stevens, nor any other federal jurist, has emerged as an heir to Douglas 's image as a judge consistently ready to raise his voice and wield his power for the unmitigated benefit of nature. Instead, Stevens exemplifies, and indeed is one of the principal architects of, the federal judiciary's complex and nuanced response to the expectations placed on it early in the Environmental Decade.
This Article explores that response, recognizing that one of its major characteristics is the resolution of many environmental cases through general doctrines of administrative law and statutory interpretation, rather than more specific environmental principles and policies. Most famously displaying this characteristic is Stevens 's opinion in Chevron U. S.A , Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. That Clean Air Act case raised issues of tremendous significance for air pollution control across the country, yet it was decided without any direct analysis of the environmental questions it raised. Although Justice Stevens 's best known opinion for the Court thus far was in this environmental case, it was not an environmental law decision.
Kenneth A. Manaster,
Justice Stevens, Judicial Power, and the Varieties of Environmental Litigation
, 74 Fordham L. Rev. 1963
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/facpubs/50